Saturday, March 23, 2013

Kafka, The Toronto Police, and Toronto Community Housing

"Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning."

- The Trial, by Franz Kafka

Last evening, I made a brief post which included a quotation from George Orwell's 1984, linking it to a story from The Guardian that dealt with the suppression of freedom of expression rights being experienced by some British public servants. Today, he and another literary icon, Franz Kafka, came to mind as I read a story from the Star detailing a witch hunt conducted by the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) that resulted in the suspension of six employees, four of whom were ultimately terminated. Indeed, if one were to substitute the word fired for arrested in the above Kafka quotation, one would have a perfect summary of what happened to these workers.

Their problems began in the aftermath of a much publicized incident of racial profiling in which two Toronto police officers, attached to the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS), stopped four black youth, ages 15 and 16, in a public housing complex. Exercising his rights, one of the lads refused to answer any questions, and the situation quickly escalated to the point where one of the officers pulled a gun, and the teens were arrested. All of the trumped-up charges, including the standard resisting arrest charge police so frequently use against those who exercise their rights, were eventually dropped.

To the police department's chagrin, someone handed over a copy of the surveillance video to The Star that captured the events, which included an unprovoked assault on one of the youths by the police, as you will see in the video below:

The fact that this video and the original story of the police abuse of authority were published by The Star did not sit well with the resume builders and careerists at TCHC. In what I am sure they deemed a remarkably good use of their well-paid time, they set out to track down the heretics who had caused public embarrassment to the police, apparently more concerned with maintaining a cozy relationship with them than they were with the egregious violation of Charter Rights the video reveals.

To make a long story short, since you can read the details in the above links, interrogations took place, and despite an absence of evidence that anyone had leaked anything to The Star, (indeed, you will see stout denials in today's story by the putative 'culprits') terminations ensured.

The abuse of authority, whether at the hands of police, employers or individuals victimizing other individuals, has always outraged me. This case is no exception.


  1. We live in a time and place, Lorne, where people who are in positions of responsibility assume they must demonstrate their authority.

    That means that they must win and someone must lose. It has nothing to do with justice.

    1. Sadly. Owen, it seems to be true of almost any organization or institution. I certainly saw my fair share of it among administrators, as you probably did too, during my teaching career.